Jet Black Heart by Teresa Flavin

(8.8/10)

Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant and dyslexic readers aged 12+

She doesn't enjoy "letterboxing" but as her family are on the Moors, she decides to play along with her sister, Gracie, who it seems is mad about the idea of finding messages inside abandoned and buried bottles.

Their parents see it as a form of fun, and a way of getting the two of them interested in being able to use maps and navigate their way around the countryside.

However, when Dory is alone and finds a Victorian "letterbox," she opens it and reads the note card inside - and as she does so she releases something that will change her life forever. This particular Letterbox acts as a time portal, and her opening it brought her to another time line, and her putting the card back in the bottle and putting the bottle back in the ground takes her back to her own.

Dory and Gracie don't seem to get on, and this trip was their parents way of getting them to work together and maybe see eye-to-eye on a few things, but when Dory meets Eli after finding the bottle, things change, and due to what she has seen, she can never tell Gracie that removing a bottle from the ground and taking a card from the bottle, she has taken a trip back in time.

Firstly, she would never believe her, and secondly her parents would freak-out. As Gracie is a year younger than her, she feels she can never be a part of her life as Dory is more adult about most things. Dory hopes she can see Eli again, and does, but on seeing what is written on the card, this time she is horrified. Eli is being hunted down by his father, and for reasons which she doesn't know first-hand, he must never be caught.

His sister Charlotte is in a bad way too and is not allowed to see him as a result of what they had done before. As Dory leads a normal life back in her own time line, meeting Eli is the only interesting thing to happen to her. She listened what Eli told her of the school he attended, the nastiness of his life there and the fact he can't see his own sister. Dory can if she is brave enough, change Eli and Charlotte's fate by helping them run away to America with his mother's jewellery, but now that Dory holds the jet pendant, anything could happen once she steps into his father's house to rescue Charlotte.

Teresa Flavin has not just written this book, she has beautifully illustrated the art for each chapter in graphite pencil. Her characters of Eli, Charlotte and Rachel felt as real as Dory and Gracie. I enjoyed going into Eli and Charlotte’s painful world of sadness and restrictions and love as well as loss. What might have been a standard romantic tale takes a nice rewarding twist half way through that left me wanting to read more from this author. There is more than a little touch of Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights about this novel with its fleeting backdrop retreat that in Victorian times would have been darker still. Dory's difficult relationship with her sister changes as soon as she also discovers more about what motivates Dory to go visit the man of her dreams. She acts like a strong girl though she things her family with not understand her if they knew.

Jet Black Heart is a novel that draws you into its world of past heartaches and new, real terrors. Tread with caution... or you're in for a scare.

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